The book of Habakkuk begins with a question that could probably be posed in any era but seems particularly pertinent to our modern day. Habakkuk is a righteous man and he simply wants to know why God has not punished the injustice that he sees around him.
This question has modern significance as many await the return of Christ. Without a doubt, people from every generation have believed that Christ would return in their lifetime and people have seen signs indicating His near return.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun and we can’t claim that the sins of today are any worse than those of yesteryear. On the other hand, it seems to many that the sins are more prevalent and far more accepted than they used to be. People are crying out today, asking when Christ will return and the faithful will be rewarded.
God responds by telling Habakkuk that the sins of Israel have not gone unnoticed. He will indeed punish Israel’s sins and it will happen soon. God declares that He will send the Babylonians to punish the Israelites.
In case Habakkuk was unaware of somehow forgot about the might of the Babylonians, God declares just how ruthless the Babylonians are. They have the might to be able to conquer the Israelites and they will do so in brutal fashion. It is not enough that the kingdom be punished for its sins by being conquered, the wicked will suffer at the hands of the Babylonians.
While this is prophecy that the Babylonians would conquer the southern kingdom, God makes it clear that He is not simply foretelling the future. God is the cause of the Babylonians ability to conquer the Israelites. Obviously it stands to reason that if God meant to protect the Israelites from the Babylonians, He could do so. This is not even God just removing His hand of protection from the Israelites and allowing them to suffer their own fate. Instead, Habakkuk 1:6 makes it clear that God is “raising up” the Babylonians for the task of punishing the Israelites for their sins.
Habakkuk’s response to the news that the Babylonians were coming to punish the sins of Israel is a pretty natural response given what he’s just been told. Habakkuk basically asks “why the Babylonians?” Or phrase it another way, he wonders “How can God use an evil more wicked nation to punish the Israelites.”
There is plenty of unrighteousness in the southern kingdom as it nears its end. That was what Habakkuk was concerned about to begin with. But he can’t fathom how God would use an even more wicked nation to punish the sins of the Israelites.
We often wonder why God allows certain sins to persist. Obviously God does not delight in any sin but some sins seem more heinous than others. Abuse of women and children is one particular sin that disgusts most people and breaks the hearts of anyone who has to watch a family member fall victim to it. But God can use the most wicked sins and still use them to accomplish His purposes.
We must make a distinction between God using sin and God causing sin however. God is never the source of sin. Even though God was raising up the Babylonians, He did not make them wicked. In the Bible, Joseph was sold into slavery. His brothers were ruled by jealousy and hatred and covered up their deed with lies. But at the end of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good.
Likewise, no one would ever state that Adolf Hitler was purposely doing God’s will as he slaughtered millions of Jews and brought the world into a second world war. But it seems evident that God used such wickedness to help Israel become a nation again and to spur millions of Jews to return to the land that God had promised to Abraham millennia ago.
Habakkuk doesn’t grasp this idea however. All he can see is that Babylon is even more wicked than Judah. He doesn’t realize that God can even use wickedness to accomplish His purposes.